Bill King may be right about one thing – voter approval of the METRO referendum effectively kills light rail transit expansion for the foreseeable future. But King is dead wrong about the essential role of rail transit in making Houston competitive in the global economy. With severe traffic congestion and air pollution, in a very low density city (LA is 2.6 times as dense), an “all-highway-and-bus system” just won’t work. A recent national report cited Houston as among the top 10 most expensive cities, with about the highest transportation costs (32% of household income) in the nation. Then there is the tax base issue – $100 million invested in rail transit typically yields $1.5-2.0 billion in new real estate development. It is obvious why over 40 U.S. cities, competing for hi-tech jobs, businesses, and residents, are expanding rail transit. Probably a lot of the YES voters were folks thinking they were supporting rail transit, rather than defeating it. Let’s find a way to compete and complete the MetroSolutions plan approved by the voters in 2003. Our economy, the environment, and our quality of urban life depend on it.
Peter H. Brown AKA “Pedestrian Pete,” Director, BetterHouston
The confusion that all poll workers encountered about this issue was amazing, considering how passionate most voters were in their expressions of desire for more light rail and soon. Generally, they couldn’t believe that elected officials and Metro were putting the question to them in a way that would achieve the opposite effect they intended if they voted For.
You could look at the resulting vote and say, wow, 78% of people support Metro! But that would be as false as the Metro board and elected officials saying, “See, voters want roads, not transit.” Still, the point is clear that we really don’t know what the voters were saying.
Although Metro chairman Gilbert Garcia told the Chronicle on election night “You bet we are going to look at the next step for rail,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker, in the same article, quickly squashed that thought saying “We have been cannibalizing the bus system in order to support the light rail lines.” She will push for more “balance” between light rail and buses, the exact position of the people who opposed the 2003 Metro referendum and forced this absurd vote.
But there is still life in the movement for higher quality of life that enables people to live in walkable neighborhoods that are connected by transit, and you can be sure that transit advocates are not going away, not giving up.
So this website will remain active – and we will continue to build the pro-transit network through social media and community forums to find a way back to the quest for a sustainable, livable Houston. Keep the faith.
-David Crossley, president, Houston Tomorrow.
In a Chronicle article about the Metro referendum, Mayor Parker makes several statements that are misleading. First, the article reports this:
“Mayor Annise Parker and the chairman she appointed to the Metro board, Gilbert Garcia, insist that passage of the proposition makes rail expansion more likely. One of the stated purposes of the referendum is to allow Metro to pay down debt, freeing up borrowing capacity that could be used on future rail lines. Referendum opponents are wrong when they say its passage will delay rail, Parker said Wednesday.”
A presentation by Metro during the run-up to the board’s decision on the referendum says no rail would be under construction until 2028 if the General Mobility Program continues. Board members have suggested that there are scenarios in which that could be 2025. Further, if the referendum fails, Metro will have six times as much money, enabling it to pay down debt much faster. The Mayor is the only one who insists that passage of the referendum will not delay rail.
The Mayor goes on to say:
“Either they believe that the magic tooth fairy in Washington will shower us with federal transit dollars in the midst of a still very difficult budget cycle, or we’re going to have to pay for that next line that we build ourselves,” she said. “If we want to pay for that line ourselves, once again, we’re not creditworthy unless we pay down our debt. So, how is this going to slow down rail?”
Most rail and transit advocates believe the days of Washington funding substantial transit programs are over, and that the only way we will build a bigger system is with local money and resources. So, yes, we believe in the second part of her first sentence.
Again, Metro can pay down the debt much faster if the referendum fails. So, logically, passing the referendum will slow down rail.
Vote AGAINST the Metro referendum if you want more and better transit service.
That $2.5 billion can build a lot of bus and rail service. But the only way to return that money to Metro is to vote AGAINST the referendum. Vote AGAINST the referendum so that Metro can complete the plan you, the voters, approved in 2003.
So, one day, when he had some errands to run, Bob decided to go a little out of his way on the MetroRail to see the sights, enjoy the ride, and spread the word about supporting Houston transit. Armed with a smartphone, Twitter, a stack of info cards and his Q Card, Bob documented his morning on the train:
@ArianFoster Knows, #gocoogs, #23, and my #voteno shirt. #supporthoustontransit #gotexans”
A woman waiting for the train was kind enough to get a photo of Bob proudly sporting his pro-transit t-shirt, and she asked him about the Metro referendum. She wasn’t the last to be curious about the issue, and was glad she had run into him and learned the facts.
“Getting on the train at Ensemble/HCC”
“On the rail…”
“Exited at Main Street Square. ”
“Walking to Books-a-Million”
“End of the line, UH Downtown. Heading back the whole way to Fannin South.”
“Just a photo…”
“30 seconds later…” (Here come those riders!)
“Halfway to Fannin South.”
“At the TMC Transit Center.”
“I saw the
“End of the line.”
“About to head back into town. UHD-Fannin South.”
“Wow, the rail is getting busy.”
“Back on the Richmond #25.”
#metrorailbob, and I approve. #gotexans”
Total cost for Bob to run errands, see some sights and talk to voters on the train: $2.50. A dollar less than the price of a gallon of gas, and with no traffic stress involved.
We chatted with Bob after his ride around town:
Are you riding the MetroRail this weekend? Share your photos and/or videos with us on Twitter using the hashtag #supporthoustontransit and we’ll feature them on SupportHoustonTransit.org and social media. Also, please join us for a Pro-Transit Flash Mob Saturday, November 3 at 12:30 pm at the Wheeler St. Station. T-shirts and other materials will be provided, and all you have to do is be part of the fun!
Anticipated programs including additional bus routes, better bus service frequency, new shelters, more Park & Ride service, fleet expansion, and Metro Rail service will be negatively impacted if the GMP continues. Find this information at http://www.ridemetro.org/AboutUs/Referendum/PDFs/GHP_Referendum_%20Presentation_27July2012.pdf . Then vote AGAINST the referendum to have better bus and rail service.
If the GMP ends, Metro will keep all of its sales tax revenue to use to improve transit services. This is clearly stated in Metro’s referendum brochure. See for yourself at http://www.ridemetro.org/AboutUs/Referendum/PDFs/GMP_Brochure_100812.pdf. Vote AGAINST the referendum to end the unfair distribution of sales tax and allow Metro to expand transit services. It also means that for the first time in its history Metro will have at its disposal all the tax money it was supposed to receive from the beginning. It’s a huge step forward in terms of expanding our transit system. So if you want more transit, vote AGAINST the Metro referendum.